The state of Illinois is one of just a handful across the country that require a permit to possess a gun in the home and provides criminal penalties for those who are caught with a firearm, but that law took a hit on Tuesday when a Circuit Court judge ruled that the state’s Firearm Owner ID card is unconstitutional, at least when it comes to keeping arms in your residence.
The case of Illinois v. Vivian Claudine Brown been in the state court system for several years, now, and today’s decision is actually the second time that a judge has ruled Brown’s possession of a bolt-action rifle shouldn’t have been a crime, even though she didn’t possess a valid FOID card. Last year the Illinois State Supreme Court declared that the judge had unnecessarily ruled on the constitutionality of the FOID statute and sent the case back down to the Circuit Court for further review.
Well, that review has been made, and once again we have a declaration that the FOID requirement is a violation of the Second Amendment. In a thorough analysis of the state’s FOID law, Judge T. Scott Webb makes the astute observation that under Illinois law no one really has the right to keep and bear arms, even in their home. Instead, everyone is considered a prohibited person unless and until they fork over money to the state for a permission slip. Webb says that the entire process is “inverted,” adding:
The burden should be on the state to demonstrate that a citizen has committed an act thereby disqualifying them from being in the group of people that already possess a Second Amendment right. Instead, the opposite is true. A citizen in the state of Illinois is not born with a Second Amendment right. Nor does that right inure when a citizen turns 18 or 21 years of age. It is a facade. They only gain that right if they pay a $10 fee, complete the proper application, and submit a photograph.
Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation, which supported Brown’s case along with the Illinois State Rifle Association, says the decision is an important step forward towards getting the case back before the state Supreme Court.
“The FOID Card requirement in order to exercise the constitutionally enumerated right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment clearly goes too far in this case,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb.
As White County Circuit Judge T. Scott Webb notes in his ruling, ‘It simply cannot be the case that a citizen must pay a fee in order to exercise a core individual Second Amendment right within their own home.’ For too long, Illinois has been treating this right like a regulated government privilege and that needs to stop.”
Gottlieb says it’s “outrageous” for the state of Illinois to declare that no one can legally own a gun unless they fork over $10 and wait for the state to give them a permission slip, and Judge Webb clearly agrees. In his opinion, Webb also declared that “if the right to bear arms and self-defense are truly core rights, there should be no burden on the citizenry to enjoy those rights, especially within the confines and privacy of their own homes.”
Even in the best of circumstances, Illinois’ FOID requirement is an egregious abuse of government power, but the issue has become even more acute over the past year as the state has allowed tens of thousands of FOID applications to pile up. It’s taking an average of four months for the Illinois State Police to process a FOID application, which means people trying to exercise their Second Amendment rights are being forced to wait for weeks on end for permission to exercise a constitutionally protected right.
There are several challenges to the FOID delays that are also making their way through the state’s court system, but Brown’s case may be the first opportunity that the state Supreme Court has to weigh in. The Court punted on the constitutionality of the FOID requirement last year, but Judge Webb appears to be doing all he can to force the state Supreme Court to decide the issue once and for all.